Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 64

Summary of Decision April 13, 2011

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name: Fremont County Sheriff’s Dep’t. v. Strom

Citation: 2011 WY 65

Docket Number: S-09-0244, S-09-0245

Original Proceeding, Petition for Writ of Review, District Court of Fremont County,
The Honorable Norman E. Young, Judge

Representing Petitioners: Richard Rideout of Law Offices of Richard Rideout, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Respondent Rebecca Strom: John H. Robinson and Richard R. Jamieson of Jamieson & Robinson, LLC, Casper, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Robinson.

Representing Respondent Raecheal A. Strom: Laurence W. Stinson and Dawn R. Scott of Bonner Stinson, P.C., Cody, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Stinson.

Date of Decision: April 13, 2011

Facts: Respondent sisters were injured when the vehicle in which they were riding was struck inside city limits by a vehicle fleeing at an excessive rate of speed from pursuing law enforcement officers. The sisters each timely presented their individual written notice of claim signed under penalty of perjury to the petitioner governmental entities as required by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-39-113(a) and Article 16, Section 7, of the Wyoming Constitution. Although each sister’s original complaint alleged that a notice of claim had been presented, each original complaint did not meet the requirement of alleging the date of filing of the notice of claim, and each did not specifically allege compliance with Article 16, Section 7, of the Wyoming Constitution. Each sister filed an amended complaint after expiration of the one-year statute of limitations of § 1-39-114, alleging the correct date of presentation of the notice of claim, but not specifically alleging compliance with the constitutional provision. The petitioner governmental entities filed motions to dismiss the amended complaints. The district court denied those motions and, pursuant to W.R.C.P. 15(c)(2), permitted the sisters to file second amended complaints to cure the pleading deficiencies with the amendments to relate back to the date of filing of the original complaints. The petitioner governmental entities again filed motions to dismiss those amended complaints. The district court again denied those motions. The petitioner governmental entities timely filed their petition for writ of review which this Court granted, and the Court consolidated the two cases for purposes of briefing, oral argument, and decision.

Issues: Whether a complaint which was filed within one year of presenting a notice of claim as required by the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, but which failed to allege compliance with the Act and the constitutional requirements, can be amended after the one year deadline to allege such compliance and whether that amendment “relates back” to the date of the filing of the original complaint, when as a matter of law the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction at the time the action was filed.

Holdings: The Court affirmed the district court’s order denying the motions to dismiss and permitting the respondents to amend their complaints to allege the dates on which they presented their notices of claims and to allege that their claims were signed under penalty of perjury in compliance with the signature and certification requirements of Article 16, Section 7, of the Wyoming Constitution, such amendments to relate back to the date of filing of the original complaints in accordance with W.R.C.P. 15(c). The Court cited recent decisions in Brown v. City of Casper, et al., 2011 WY 35, __ P.3d __ (Wyo. 2011), followed by Madsen v. Bd. of Trustees of Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, Wyoming, 2011 WY 36, __ P.3d __ (Wyo. 2011); and Gess v. Flores, 2011 WY 48, __ P.3d __ (Wyo. 2011), as controlling authority.

J. Golden delivered the opinion for the court.

J. Voigt filed a specially concurring opinion, concurring in the result of the majority opinion out of respect for the doctrine of stare decisis, but believing the result was wrong.

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